Dublin Airport's expansion will do €8.4 billion global warming damage

Dublin Airport's expansion plan will cost at least €8.4 billion in climate change damage alone, and waste €13 billion in total according to a press release by United Portmarnock Residents Opposing Another Runway (UPROAR).



Dublin Airport's expansion plan will bring passenger numbers to 35 million per annum by 2020 and to a full capacity of 60 million by about 2035.  Using figures based on Ryanair's fuel consumption per passenger and the findings of The Stern Review (1) we find that the cost of the damage done by this expansion, in terms of global warming, comes to a staggering €8.4 billion, at least.

Ryanair claims, with some justification, to have clean and modern aircraft. In fiscal year 2006, Ryanair's 32 million passengers clocked up
30.3 billion kilometres in total, or 940 km per trip.  As Ryanair spent €463 million on fuel in the same period at a price of €488 per tonne, it follows that Ryanair planes burned 947,000 tonnes of aviation fuel transporting 32 million passengers, or 29.4 kg of fuel per passenger (2). Every kilogram of aviation fuel burned, produces 3.15 kg of CO2. Therefore, every Ryanair passenger produced about 93 kg of CO2 in fiscal 2006.

Costing the damage done by global warming and the contribution of CO2 emissions to that damage, Professor Nicholas Stern puts that cost, on average, at about US$85 (€68) per tonne of CO2 (Stern Review: Box 13.3).

According to Stern, the warming effect (radiative forcing) of aviation is 2 to 4 times greater than the effect of the CO2 emissions alone “because of other gases released by aircraft and their effects at high altitude For example, water vapour emitted at high altitude often triggers the formation of condensation trails, which tend to warm the earth's surface.” (Stern Review: Box 15.6).

We use a factor of 2.7, given by George Monbiot (3) which is in the lower half of this range and gives a total global warming damage per tonne of CO2 of about €184. At 93 kg per passenger, this means that every Ryanair passenger does about €17 worth of global warming damage.

Other airlines using Dublin Airport have older fleets and less efficient aircraft on average so that their passengers, assuming at least the average journey length of 940 km, do at least the same amount of damage per passenger (4). Applied to all Dublin Airport passengers, these emission rates and their environmental costs are therefore conservative.

It can be deduced that all the 21 million passengers of 2006, emitted at least 1.95 million tonnes of CO2 at a cost of at least €357 million in global warming damage.

As the Ryanair fleet is new, it can be assumed to have a service life of 30-40 years and therefore these emission rates will persist with little improvement for that lifetime. As other airlines are well behind Ryanair, it can be assumed that these rates of emission and cost are conservative estimates valid for the lifetime of a new fleet for all Dublin Airport passengers.

As far as the environmental costs of Dublin Airport's expansion programme is concerned, it follows that when the airport reaches capacity at 60 million passengers about 2035, its extra 40 million passengers per year will be doing an extra €680 million worth of global warming damage per year.  The damage of the extra passengers in each year up to full capacity would be less that this. To add up the damage of all these years it is necessary to discount the figures of future years to allow for the fact that, in a more prosperous future, €1 will have a lower utility value than it does today.  Using a set of discount factors provided by the Stern Review (Fig 2A.1) we find that the present value of the stream of climate change damage from now until 2050, due to the expansion plans of Dublin Airport, is at least €8.4 billion.

It is worthy of note that the Environmental Protection Agency allocated just over 20,000 tonnes CO2 equivalent for each of the years 2005, 2006 and 2007 to Dublin Airport.  This is only one hundredth of the 2 million tonnes of CO2 at least, emitted by Dublin Airport's 21 million passengers in 2006. The anomaly is due to the fact that international aviation is not included in Kyoto protocol.

This minimum total climate change cost of €8.4 billion is additional to the €4.5 billion net economic cost UPROAR has estimated for the proposed expansion plan of Dublin Airport. See: www.norunway.com/t2a/appt2.htm.

That waste is due to a misuse of very valuable land, the economic cost of road congestion and an estimate of the loss of welfare to communities surrounding Dublin Airport.  It can therefore be concluded that the expansion plans of Dublin Airport will incur, at a conservative estimate, a net loss of €13 billion.

1. Nicholas Stern, The Economics of Climate Change – The Stern Review, Cambridge University Press, available online at http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_review_economics...

2. These figures imply 3.13 kg fuel per 100 passenger kilometres and are consistent with the 3.8 litres (3 kg) of fuel per 100 passenger kilometres given on the Ryanair website:

3. This information was provided by Ryanair in a statement to the US
Securities and Exchange Commission on 27 September 2006.  See:

4. http://www.guardian.co.uk/Columnists/Column/0,,1719728,00.html

5. In 2005 Aer Lingus' average journey was 1560 km.  Given this longer trip length and older fleet, Aer Lingus passengers are doing much more damage, perhaps twice that of Ryanair passengers.


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